“The annihilation of Earth is only a heartbeat away”
THE RAINS BY GREGG HURWITZ
I read “The Rains” by Gregg Hurwitz with great interest, as I’m always curious why bestselling adult writers decide to take a stab at writing YA. Hurwitz usually writes a book a year since his debut in 1999 and is a very popular producer of page-turning thrillers which sell very well. I’ve even read a few, as has the wife! So “The Rains” was a major change of pace for him, and over the whole I enjoyed it a lot. I must point out that it borrows heavily from a pretty wide range of both adult and other YA novels, but Hurwitz blitzes everything together into his own cooking pot and comes up with a brand that teenagers should really get into. In reviewing YA you must always remember that YOU are not the intended audience, so the majority of YA readers will not pick up on everything I mention in this review.
“The Rains” is a brutally successful mish-mash of horror, science fiction and adrenaline pumping adventure. In fact, you’re unlikely to find a faster paced YA novel this year if you tried. It stops for the odd breather, but on the whole is unrelenting from beginning to end and I found myself reading it very fast through the multiple mini-climaxes which keep the book moving at a furious lick, helped by the fact the plot plays out in just one highly explosive week.
Just to give you a small flavour of the world this highly entertaining novel inhabits, these are some of the other books I was reminded of for a variety of reasons. But I refuse to tell you the exact reason why, why ruin the surprise of reading it yourself? Jack Finney’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, Stephen King’s “Cell”, Robert McCammon’s “Stinger”, John Wyndham’s “Day of the Triffids” and Scott Sigler’s vicious cult classic “Infected” All these amazing books have a teeny bit of “The Rains” lurking inside them. From the world of film and TV we have “V”, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”, James Cameron’s “Aliens” and even “Red Dawn” as the cool teenage fightback begins later in the novel. So mix these together and you have a pretty great horror hybrid which should pull bored teenagers away from their devices and computer screens. The promotional material rightfully namechecks the great Jonathan Maberry and Rick Yancey, who both write in the same zone.
The novel opens with fifteen year old Chance Rain and his seventeen year old brother Patrick, who work on their farm in a remote part of America, which has limited mobile phone coverage. Debris from an asteroid has resulted in large strange vegetation growing in the local areas, after a few days the growths explode and all the microscopic pores become airborne. Very quickly we realise these pores make adults very sick and quickly turns them into creatures which no longer seem human or act like us. Some of the previews of these books use the word zombies, but they most certainly aren’t Zs. Pretty quickly Chance and Patrick are attacked by neighbours which are horribly difficult to kill even after sustaining horrific injuries. This nasty malady effects all adults except for an old science teacher who has an illness which we realise makes him immune, everyone else over the age of age of eighteen bites the dust pretty quickly. All the surviving kids in the local area group together and hide in the local school whilst the former adults/creatures hunt them down with something very, very nasty in store for them. To say anything else would ruin it, so look again at the list of books above for a small inkling of the very dark direction the novel heads into… You just know mankind is at risk…..
First up this was a very violent YA read. Where else are you going to get a woman ripping out her own hair (and scalp) to she can use it as twine to bind a kid’s hands? Or a horrible scene where captured kids are transported in cages on the back of a lorry, it swerves, and the cages at the back of the truck fall off and down into a gorge to certain death. All you hear are the screams. Yes indeed, this was a pretty dark, nasty and very exciting read. It had many powerful sequences as the kids fought for survival and as the author reveals the true intentions of the creatures in a way that just adds to the suspense and atmosphere.
The elder brother Patrick will turn 18 in seven days and so the book goes into a gripping countdown mode as they try to find a cure and mount a “Red Dawn” style fight back. This sort of stuff is already well covered in YA and there are many books where only the adults turn into zombies, and a number of others where there is a countdown. Charlie Higson did parent zombies very well in “The Enemy” series and Michael Grant had a 400 hour countdown in book one of the “Gone” series. Indeed, Virginia Bergin even had another asteroid in “Rain” and there is some of Jonathan Maberry’s “Nightsiders” series lurking in here also. So YA is full of this sort of stuff, but I think Hurwitz has made a very successful transition from adult to YA here and pitches this well at the 13-16 age range with some likeable and believable teenage characters.
The creatures were very nasty and differed greatly from traditional zombies. To begin with it looks like something has eaten their eyes away and many of them move around on all fours and hunt out the children, moving in packs. The younger brother Chance has a crush on his brother’s girlfriend who also has a major part and is pretty nifty at wielding a hockey stick. There were a couple of small clichés along the way, hiding in the school was surely the most obvious place to go to ground and the old science teacher’s survival was an easy way of helping the group make scientific jumps which would otherwise be beyond them. For much of the novel you don’t know whether this ‘invasion’ was a local phenomenon or was spreading elsewhere in America or further, and I liked this sense of isolation the teens left.
It also suffers from the ‘curse’ in modern YA: sequels. There are just too many of them. In my opinion not enough was resolved at the end of the novel, hence the need for a second book. Way too many YA sequences seem to be never ending, the two I mentioned before “Gone” and “The Enemy” suffered from that, so let’s hope the author wraps this up in book two and that it doesn’t drag it out. I would certainly be interested in reading on as there were several great plot developments towards the end which have great potential. This was a highly addictive page-turner which should amuse bored teenagers who enjoy quality genre fiction. Mr Gregg welcome to the wide, wide, world of YA!